Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Playing the Back Nine

What should have been a boring, sponsor love-fest type of press conference in the Bahamas yesterday is fueling speculation that Tiger Woods may be done as a golfer.  Tiger is the "host" for the Hero World Challenge this week and after the CEO of Hero and another of his sponsored golfers got done talking about how cool their products are, Tiger took questions about the status of his comeback from yet another back surgery--and the answered raised concerns that there may be no comeback.

In the past, Tiger never waivered from the mantra "I'll be back quicker than the doctors think--and I will be even stronger than I was before".  But for the first time yesterday, the answer was "I don't know when I'll be back".  And then he admitted that he has not been able to swing a club, work on chipping and putting or even to kick the soccer ball around with his kids.  "I play a lot of video games" was his answer to how he fills his time.

Even more telling were the comments that Tiger made when asked if he would be okay with his career if he never played or won again.  Younger Tiger would have gotten snarky and asked right back "Who says my career might be over"--or "I don't think about the end of my career because I've got a lot of years yet to play".  But yesterday, Woods actually answered the question with "I've had a great career, and any wins after this would be gravy."

What's more, the man who talked about having just one career goal: passing Jack Nicklaus and his 18-career majors--with a secondary goal of beating out Sam Snead for most career wins--suddenly reversed that--pointing out that he has surpassed Jack in overall wins, and Snead in career majors.  Nevermind that until six years ago, Tiger smashing both of those records appeared to be a forgone conclusion.

And that takes us back to that fateful Thanksgiving night in 2009 when that inevitability was smashed by what seemed to be a harmless car crash outside of his house.  The air of invincibility was blown by the salacious allegations and myriad of injuries that followed.  And then there were the swing changes and the coaching changes and the chipping yips that turned one of the greatest athletes of our time into a regular weekend hacker.

Perhaps Tiger is giving us the Rope-a-Dope--putting out statements that lead us to start writing his sports eulogy.  That would make any accomplishment beyond this point seem "greater"--and give him another of his favorite lines about "we were under-estimating him" and how he "never lost faith in himself or his game (unlike 'you guys')".  But I think he realizes the end is much closer than he liked to think before the second micro-discectomy surgery two months ago.

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